August 19, 2014
By Cole Cosgrove and Halley Knigge
Volunteer maintenance technicians refurbish baggage cart, drive it to Los Angeles
To ensure the remains of fallen service members are treated with respect and dignity upon arrival, a special blue baggage cart with American flag curtains and red carpet has been delivered to Los Angeles International Airport.
During a dedication ceremony Monday at LAX, Seattle employees presented the cart to their Los Angeles counterparts, accompanied by an honor guard and representatives from Los Angeles World Airports.
Alaska Airlines has used a similar cart since 2011 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where aircraft maintenance technicians volunteered to refurbish the cart and develop the protocols of the Fallen Soldier Program. Another cart serves Portland.
“I respect people who risk their lives for our freedoms, and I feel like this is a small thing I can do for them in return,” said John Van Dyke, a line aircraft technician in Seattle who volunteered his sheet-metal skills to help customize the cart.
Alaska maintenance employees delivered the cart this week on a 1,127-mile journey from Seattle to Los Angeles, with a special "pony express" escort of motorcycle Patriot Guard riders, as well as representatives from the airport police and fire departments and volunteers from the Bob Hope USO. Alaska’s LAX employees follow the group’s fallen soldier protocols, even wearing special safety vests emblazoned with the Fallen Soldier Program name and slogan. With this cart, the program will be complete.
Alaska maintenance employees delivered the cart this week on a 1,127-mile journey from Seattle to Los Angeles, with a special "pony express" escort of motorcycle Patriot Guard riders, as well as representatives from the airport police and fire departments.
During Monday’s ceremony, Patriot Guard rider Jess Ahumada Jr. presented Alaska Airlines with a flag that had been passed from rider to rider from the California border down to LAX.
"I lost my son in 2009, and I thought about what this cart is going to be used for,” Ahumada said. “I've got to help another brother and another father out.”
Tim Fahey and Jim Rea drove the cart from Seattle to Los Angeles. A Ford F250 pulled a freshly painted trailer, courtesy of Ground Support Equipment’s lead technician Dan Stewart and site supervisor Mike Smith.
“It was a big group effort,” said Rea, the fallen-soldier representative for LAX and a lead avionics technician in Seattle.
The cart’s exterior features an aluminum LAX sign that was made in the machine shop. Exterior plaques represent the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Inside are plaques for the Army National Guard and Air National Guard.
On the top of the cart, visible to airline customers, is a large decal that says “Alaska Airlines Honoring the Fallen” along with a star and emblems for the five armed services.
The fallen soldier cart will remain in the care of Alaska Airlines but will be available for any airline at LAX to use.